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MLB aims to play first regular-season games in London in 2017

NEW YORK -- America's pastime is seeking to build a new audience across the pond.

Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred told The Associated Press that the league is looking to play its first regular-season games in London in 2017.

"We are very interested in playing there, and we're working hard on that one," Manfred told the AP during an interview on his first anniversary as baseball commissioner. "I don't think it will be an opener because of the weather issues. It would be later in the season."

Baseball has been looking at the Olympic Stadium as a possible venue. Manfred wouldn't discuss the possibility of shifting a high-profile matchup, such as Yankees-Red Sox, to England.

"We haven't really settled on teams, and I don't want to speculate about that," he said. "Obviously, we want to make as good a first impression in Europe as we possibly can."

Manfred told the AP that he counts international developments, such as an agreement to stream games in China, among his top accomplishments in his first year.

He also said MLB is studying whether to raise the bottom of the strike zone from the hollow beneath the kneecap to the top of the kneecap. The strike zone extended to the top of the kneecap through the 1995 season, then was dropped to its current level.

"I'm not in a position to predict whether it's going to happen or not," Manfred said. "I think that the interest in the topic is really driven by the fact that if you look over time, there has been a movement down of the strike zone, largely as a result of the way we evaluate the strike zone with umpires."

Strike zone data were included in a presentation given to owners last week at their meeting in Coral Gables, Florida. An agreement with the players' association would be necessary to make a change for this year. Baseball officials said the matter is likely to be discussed during collective bargaining, which would delay any change until 2017.

"The umpires have done a great job calling the strike zone as we want it called," Manfred said. "The question is whether we ought to make an adjustment."

Consideration of a change comes after a decade and a half decline in runs scored. There was, however, an uptick during the second half of the past season.

"The bottom to the top of the knees is only a matter of a couple inches, so it wouldn't be a big adjustment for anybody," San Francisco Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford said in an email. "But it may help hitters mentally knowing that the zone is a little smaller [even if only by a couple inches]. It could help us check off pitches that look like they might be at the bottom of the zone but are sinking even lower."

Without bottom-of-the-zone strikes, pitchers would have to adjust.

"Obviously, raising the strike zone provides more opportunity for hitters to create lift, leading to more doubles and homers and runs -- which probably generates more eyeballs watching the sport," Los Angeles Angels closer Huston Street said in an email.

Another topic for collective bargaining, Manfred said, is whether to shorten the season from 162 games, its length since the early 1960s.

"The broadcast agreements are a really serious issue, and we're going to sort out what flexibility we have once the issue gets aired at the table," Manfred said.

Although he is concerned about the demands on players, "by the same token, there are certain economics built on a 162-game season," he said. "Something less than that has massive economic ramifications, not to even mention statistics and undermining the comparability of performances of players over time. It's not something you can undertake lightly."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.